The War on Knowledge

The War on Knowledge – Beyond the Evidence-
Join me at this year’s Brighton Digital Festival for a workshop aiming at a better understanding of how trust in traditional frameworks of knowledge have been undermined and how we might approach the challenge of building an inclusive “knowledge democracy”.

“The internet for all its benefits, has led to an epistemological crisis of unprecedented scale, facilitating the international rise of demagogues and reactionary populists”
Mark O’Connell [New Statesman July 2019]

What is striking in this quotation is that Mark O’Connell has chosen to characterize our current predicament not as political, cultural or economic or even ecological but as “epistemological”, a crisis of knowledge. Moreover he claims that it is “of unprecedented scale”. If he is right (and it seems clear that he is) it is important understand what is happening and locate any evidence of a coherent resistance that does not simply replicate earlier hierarchies.

The Brighton meeting will approach the problem by recognising that we are no longer dealing with traditional propaganda. The new forms of misinformation go beyond simple deception. Many of today’s campaigns operate through establishing “grey areas” or “zones of uncertainty” in which well established norms on subjects such as climate change, migration, race and sexual identity are systematically called into question through tactics of obfuscation, irony, deniability, displacement and distraction. This is not simply about persuasion or even lies.. it is a battle for the social mind based on a war on knowledge itself.

The opening phase of the workshop will be led by Marc Tuters and Emilly de Keulenaar who are part of OiLab, a network of researchers based in Amsterdam who specialise in scrutinising the lesser known corners of the internet. They will focus on a number of case studies opening up aspects of the important work of the “digital methods” approach to digital sociology pioneered in the Netherlands. These case studies will serve as the basis for a wide ranging discussion on how we might locate the frontiers of invention for new forms of collective action.

If you are interested in joining this workshop please message me or e-mail me at or message me of Facebook as soon as possible as we are limiting numbers to no more than 50. You may also be interested in visiting the excellent Messy Edge conference next day on the 18th of October where among the many great presentations Emilly de Keulenaar will deliver a more formal lecture on her research.